OREM — A trooper who suffered a broken back following an accident that happened during a traffic stop has a message to drivers: Move over and slow down when you see law enforcement vehicles parked in the emergency lane with lights flashing.
On Feb. 11, Utah Highway Patrol trooper Blake Bradford stopped a driver on northbound I-15 near between Spanish Fork and Springville about 8:15 a.m. when another vehicle slid off the road, hitting a concrete barrier. The car bounced off the wall and rotated 180 degrees, hitting the back of the trooper's car, according to the UHP. The roads were slick at the time.
The impact also pushed Bradford's vehicle into the car he had stopped. The drivers in both civilian cars were unharmed.
“It happened really fast,” Bradford said. “I didn’t see the car coming or anything. I was busy writing out the citation. And before I knew it, I was hit and didn’t know what hit me at the time.”
Bradford said he knew he had a serious injury.
“It was very painful. I knew right when the vehicle struck me my back was (broken),” he said.
A few minutes after the crash, Bradford said he was able to move his feet, “but when I tried to get out of the vehicle to help the other people involved, I couldn’t. I couldn’t get out because of the pain and everything, so I stayed in the vehicle until help arrived.”
Fearing that he may be paralyzed, Bradford found reassurance from a passerby who came to his aid.
"She was sitting in the car with me until the emergency responders came, talking to me and keeping me calm," he said.
That passerby was Rebecca Cressman, who was on her way to work at FM 100.3 that morning.
"I think what I learned from that experience is just how fragile life is for all of us, whether we are wearing a badge or not," Cressman said.
She's also gained a new perspective on why motorists need to give troopers more room on the road.
"When we see a patrol officer on the side of the road, give them space. Because if you don't, we could be injuring ourselves or someone who is already willing to sacrifice his or her life for us," she said.
Bradford was taken to the hospital with two broken vertebrae, T1 and T2, and a lot of whiplash. He was released two days later.
“I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “I had to go home. I’m just that type of a person. So I went home, took two weeks off of work, then after the two weeks I was going crazy. I love my job, so I wanted to come back to work. So I talked to the doctors. … We decided I could come back to work, and that’s what I did.”
Bradford said he's still in pain and seeing a physical therapist.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said. “I feel really grateful for what the turnout really was.”
Bradford wants to remind drivers to move over when they see law enforcement vehicles make a traffic stop or help a motorist.
“We are out there trying to protect the public and make things safe for people going to work, going home,” he said. “Move over, help us be safe, help the public be safe. It would be very much appreciated.”